Do you remember the playground chant that used to go up when a couple of kids lost the plot over something trivial, and spent a snotty, red-faced five minutes windmilling and shoving at one another, in the middle of a baying crowd of overexcited other kids?


Last night’s spat was a curiously 4-way affair, involving a family of Hooded Crows, a young Peregrine, a Merlin, and an Arctic Skua. You couldn’t make this stuff up. We’d first seen the Peregrine motoring east over North Loch, so it was a result to get a call from JLI to let BM and I know it was back again over the Wirlie, and fighting with a Merlin! Especially a result as I was back home by this stage, so could now add Peregrine to the house yearlist.

I cadged a lift with BM down the road to the Wirlie, and we all had a grandstand view of the action. The Peregrine was half-heartedly trying to catch one of 3 Hooded Crows that were cowering on the ground above the old quarry, swooping down at them and striking down with it’s talons, forcing the crows to flatten themselves further. I’m sure had it wanted to it could have picked one off, but this seemed more about play or practice than actual hunting. Meanwhile, it had another distraction to contend with – the feistiest Merlin in Shetland was having none of this large falcon interloper on it’s territory, and was busy attacking the Peregrine for all it was worth – coming back hard and fast again and again to strike at the Peregrine.

The Peregrine began to take notice, rolling midair to present it’s talons to the infuriated Merlin – which in turn wasn’t giving up, and kept coming back for more. One of the Hooded Crows seized it’s chance, and took to the air to mob the distracted Peregrine – resulting in a brief chase as the Peregrine saw it off. The Merlin meanwhile still wasn’t giving up, and all of a sudden the Peregrine turned it’s full attention to the Merlin, powering after it in a fast horizontal chase. The Merlin went like the clappers, Peregrine hard on its tail, before shaking the pursuit off and briefly being lost to sight. The Peregrine went back to bothering the crows… and back came the Merlin again to pick up where it had left off, swooping and striking at the Peregrine once more. This went on for a while before the Merlin finally gave up and flew off, to be replaced by…

…one of a pair of passing Arctic Skuas, which clearly didn’t much fancy the look of the Peregrine, and had sufficient size and mid-air agility to make the Peregrine’s life difficult. An enthralling mobbing display by the dark-phase skua was intense enough to finally drive the Peregrine away over the hill, skua still in close attendance.



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